Celebrating Gertrude Berg, actor, screenwriter and producer. Born October 3, 1899, she brought humor and vivacity to the popular portrayal of American Jewish life.
If you have ever wondered what to serve to a vegetarian family member or guest, or are hoping to expand your vegetarian repetoire, Hazana – Jewish Vegetarian Cooking is exactly the book you have been looking for. Paola Gavin presents simple and diverse recipes inspired by traditional Jewish dishes from across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.
Gavin includes the basic culinary history of the Jewish communities from which she draws her recipes at the beginning of the book, which allows her to give homage to their roots while maintaining a clear emphasis on ingredients and instructions further on. Her associations of the dishes with Shabbat and other holidays are an added bonus for the meticulous menu-planner. While Gavin’s writing assumes that readers know their way around a kitchen, the recipes are not overwhelming for the novice cook. With her emphasis on ingredients and enthusiasm for her subject, Gavin succeeds in encouraging her readers to try something new, while allowing more experienced cooks the freedom to experiment with difference techniques and flavors. For those who are willing to sacrifice total authenticity for time-saving conveniences, most of the recipes in this book can easily transform into quick, healthy, and delicious weekday dinners.
So go ahead and buy some eggplant, watch the cauliflower disappear from your children’s plates, and savor the taste of traditional Jewish vegetarian cooking from around the world.
Books and Blintzes is happy to introduce our guest contributor Rachel Teichman.
Havdalah is a Treat
Havdalah is how I started the week every Monday morning during grade school. The whole school would gather in the gym and say the prayers together, along with “The Star Spangled Banner,” “Hatikva” and “The Pledge of Allegiance.” This was where I memorized those three things. And the ceremony really did create a separation from Shabbat and the weekend, from the school week for us all.
The word “Havdalah” literally means “separation.” By engaging all of our senses, we are able to create a connection to this separation and to the memories of the past Shabbat. Havdalah also gives us a way to look forward to the coming week. I love the use of the five senses, and it makes it such an easy observance to share with children.
During the short service, we watch the light from the Havdalah Candle and feel its warmth. We smell the spiced besamim, and taste the grape juice or wine, custom willing. And we hear the prayers, along with the sizzle of the flame asit is put out in the wine.
The element of cinnamon and other spices, besamim, which represents the sweetness of the memory of Shabbat, is an easy one to share with kids. From cinnamon sprinkled on toast and hot cocoa, to spiced rugelach and snickerdoodles, there is no end to the list of treats that can be prepared ahead of time or once Shabbat has ended.
A new treat in our home is Havdalah Candle Cinnamon Rolls. They bake up quickly for a Saturday night dessert or Sunday brunch, and don’t require many ingredients. They are fun for kids to create, decorate and eat, and are sure to start anyone off with a sweet week!
Havdalah Candle Cinnamon Rolls
1 package ready to make cinnamon rolls with icing
Small pretzel sticks
Sprinkles or mini chocolate chips (optional)
Will also need:
Preheat oven according to package directions. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Unroll all of the cinnamon rolls. Cut each strip into 6″ pieces, or whatever length you prefer depending on how many/what size treats you would like. Make groups of three strips. Make an X with two strips and lay a third vertically over the X. Begin braiding in the middle, tucking the pieces under at both ends. Bake according to package directions. When they are browned and toasted, remove from the oven. Poke 3 pretzel sticks into one end of the braid as the candle wicks. Place the baked goods on a cooling rack on top of the baking sheet and drizzle the icing on the candles, forming the melted wax. Toss on sprinkles or mini chocolate chips if you would like extra sweetness. Store according to package directions.
As an avid fan and follower of Shannon Sarna on The Nosher, I have been looking forward to the September release of her cookbook Modern Jewish Baker for months. And I mean “looking forward to” at the pre-ordered, delivery tracking, and mailbox stalking level. Even with such great expectations, Modern Jewish Baker did not disappoint.
The book is divided into 7 main sections with “master recipes” for challah, babka, bagels, rugelach, hamentaschen, pita, and matzah. Sarna keeps it simple, in the organization, photography, and typeset, rightly focuses the reader’s attention on the recipes and directions, resulting in a user-friendly cookbook. While the design makes it coffee-table display worthy, you’re better served keeping it handy and using it in the kitchen.
Throughout the book Sarna celebrates her Jewish heritage and brings diverse ingredients to the table. She raises the standards of Eastern European favorites to new culinary heights, with a decidedly cosmopolitan approach and international flair.
The recipes are so clear, and the results so delicious, that anyone who loves Jewish baked goods will find a way to incorporate Sarna’s work into their Shabbat and holiday menus, and will want to make enough for the rest of the year too. My family inhaled the onion jam babka and balsamic apple date stuffed challah so fast on Rosh HaShanah that I’m afraid of what might happen if I don’t bake them again next year. Actually, I suspect that my freezer is about to start working harder than ever. Sarna expects her readers to have access to a well-appointed kitchen, but the ingredients and timing proved more important than the equipment. Modern Jewish Baker is a gift to bakers who are willing to experiment, and who appreciate the solid back-up of detailed directions. Sarna has clearly done her homework in the kitchen, and the result is a book with the power to create mouth-watering Jewish memories for generations.